Background and objectiveOptical coherence tomography (OCT) has been used in limited settings to study peripheral nerve injury. The purpose of the study is to determine whether high-resolution OCT can be used to monitor nerve injury and regeneration in the rat sciatic nerve following crush injury, ligation, and transection with microsurgical repair.
Study design/materials and methodsForty-five rats were segregated into three groups. The right sciatic nerve was suture ligated (n = 15), cut then microsurgically repaired (n = 15), or crushed (n = 15). The left sciatic nerve served as the control; only surgical exposure and skin closure were performed. Each group was further divided into three subgroups where they were assigned survival durations of 4, 15, or 24 weeks. Following euthanasia, nerves were harvested, fixed in formalin, and imaged at the injury site, as well as proximal and distal ends. The OCT system resolution was approximately 7 microm in tissue with a 1,060 nm central wavelength.
ResultsControl (uninjured) nerve tissue showed homogenous signal distribution to a relatively uniform depth; in contrast, damaged nerves showed irregular signal distribution and intensity. Changes in signal distribution were most significant at the injury site and distal regions. Increases in signal irregularity were evident during longer recovery times. Histological analysis determined that OCT imaging was limited to the surrounding perineurium and scar tissue.
ConclusionOCT has the potential to be a valuable tool for monitoring nerve injury and repair, and the changes that accompany wound healing, providing clinicians with a non-invasive tool to treat nerve injuries.